On Friday afternoons, in humble humanitarian altruism, I volunteer at the Food Bank, because after all, I’m unemployed, I’m a slack-ass do-nothing, and I’ve got time. My efforts to make the world a better, full-bellied place may stop if I get a job, but for now I love mankind. (I did apply for a job as a writer in the College of Business at Penn State, but who knows? I’ve applied to the school before and they were on to me that time.)
While I was at the Food Bank yesterday, I was talking to a girl still in the optimistic years of high school, also one of our volunteers, and she was asking me about being a writer. I told her that I write because I have to, that it is not even always a pleasure, but it is a necessity. Last night, however, was one of the times when it reached the level of pleasure, and I drifted off to dreamland content with my literary labors.
Gaining any sense of progress with the writing lately has been difficult, because I’ve been stuck at the level of pondering. The more I’ve thought about the basic plot structure, the more I’m content with it, but there are mechanical details to be worked out. Even for readers who are willing to accept the basic fantasy of time travel, having a few rules in place makes the reading more satisfying. If the characters could simply snap their fingers and change times, that would quickly lose interest, because there is no drama, nothing to be figured out, and no challenge for them to overcome.
In my case the rules become more complicated, because I want my characters to be traveling, both in the present and in the past, but to always come back to where they were in time and space whenever they change times. Of course I will make it happen, but I want some sense of rules, and there is also the question of how to inform the reader. I can’t swear that I will meet these literary challenges brilliantly, but I am sacrificing veggie burgers on the altar of Apollo to give me inspiration.
Last night I believe I laid some foundation in chapter one, and I also added another touch that touches me well. As the time changes must occur through particular doors (a detail worked out previously), those doors are only visible to someone holding the key. This means that when Benedict and his daughter are doing this together, only one of them can see the door.
Lately I’ve been drastically revising, moving chapters around, moving paragraphs from one section to another, adding, deleting. The entire section of Benedict’s first visit to the past is gone. And now I’m trying to make chapter one do what modern novels must do—hit the ground running.
This is not the age of Austen or Alcott, and whether true or not, agents and publishers apparently believe that readers are not willing to spend the time to let a book develop. It must grab them immediately. At any rate, it must grab an agent immediately. I admit it’s fun when a book does that, but I also give a book a chance. I will usually read about 50 pages of a book before deciding to stop. But maybe I am writing for people who do not read the way I read.